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By Dennis Loo (4/8/19)

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on popular (and so popular) culture and watching some cultural works in light of getting to the basics of what it means to be a human being and a member of society. The problem, as those of you undoubtedly know, is that the most common view is that the essence of being a human being and a society-member is to be greedy and self-centered. Certainly, it is true that many humans are in the final analysis, going to protect themselves in many cases, but is that our very essence, is that what we are mainly, as in most of the time? If you think about this even a little while, then you realize that the most common view of humans as primarily selfish cannot be true! All you have to do is imagine for a moment what others do with someone who truly is selfish.

If in your everyday life you hold the door open for someone behind you and they neither smile at you and/or somehow thank you, don’t you tend to feel a little cheated and receiving something unexpected and unwelcome? Isn’t something like holding a door for others, or helping someone who drops things, or is disabled, part of what almost everyone does?

What happens to those who make no secret that they are concerned only about themselves? They are generally isolated from others by others, are they not, unless they offer something unusual or unique, in which case they are tolerated, but people continue to grumble about them? Why else do the sociopaths among us attempt to pass as acting caring about others? What happens at any social gathering – aren’t people repelled by those who clearly selfish and drawn towards those that are the opposite? It’s not the case that there aren’t exceptions to this, as with any rule, but isn’t that generally true? If you think about this on a grand scale, doesn’t cooperation exceed and make possible its reverse, competition?

Much depends upon what the social conditions are, since individual essence, even though people always exist on a spectrum and therefore inevitably vary, cannot and does not usually, overcome those circumstances. Thus, despite what I have been arguing, humans are capable of both depraved and exalted behavior, again depending on the social context, so there is no such a thing as an intrinsically good or bad person. But I so far have been mainly speaking here of what we can observe about social behavior.

Where people get confused, then, is because of two things: first, levels of different kinds come into play, and two, they are misled about “human nature.” Social standing (e.g., being considered a leader) operates within a different level (within and beholden to a different and more highly regarded group (such as board of directors) and therefore accountable to more, an institution and importantly, to that system’s logic). This comes into play, despite widespread claims to the contrary, including by those very same people.

If you consider this for even a short time, you realize that culture’s single most important subject was love. Think about what would happen, for example, to songs if love was not available as a subject. Or movies and novels, what would happen to them? What is the single-most important content to that? You are seeking “true love,” by which we mean: finding someone who will understand and empathize with you, and when they don’t totally agree with you, there will still be unconditional acceptance.


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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12